PhD Induction Day 2019

Blog written by Emily Betz. Emily is a third-year PhD student in Modern History studying the medical history in early modern England.

On Wednesday, September 18th the new cohort of history PhD students gathered at the beautiful Rufflets Hotel on the outskirts of St Andrews. The day began with the students getting to know each other over a cup of tea and a speed ice-breaker question series. After becoming better acquainted with each other’s academic and non-academic interests, we settled in to listen to Dr Emma Hart, the Director of Research Postgraduates and Elsie Johnstone, the School’s Postgraduate Administrator, speak about what the School of History offers its students. Their presentation gave a deeper insight into the School’s administrative processes and how it can support history students on the journey to a successful PhD.

The beautiful garden of the Rufflets Hotel.
Photo credit: Emily Betz

After a short coffee break, Dr Kate Ferris, chair of the School of History Equality & Diversity Committee, and Lenna Cumberbatch, University Equality & Diversity Adviser, spoke on the importance of knowing the University’s equality and diversity processes. Their interactive presentations imparted the necessity of respect in our academic environment and brought awareness to our biases, especially the unconscious ones that we all carry.  This was followed by a lovely walk in the Rufflets’ gardens while lunch was being prepared.

After a lunch of soup and sandwiches (with fantastic cake for dessert!), Dr Hart asked the group to think more about how to write a thesis and what stages we as researchers should go through during the PhD process. After discussing our methods as a group, we found that there are many individual ways of constructing a thesis—the important thing is to find a method that works best for you. While it’s easy to compare one PhD path to another and feel imposter syndrome, but Dr Hart warned against this in what would become the quote of the day: ‘Perfection is a unicorn’! The main takeaway was that there is no one correct way to be successful at your PhD.

The 2019 History PhD Induction group.
Photo credit: Emily Betz

Following in the same vein, the current PhD students talked about their own experiences and challenges with the PhD process. They echoed that perfection certainly is an unattainable goal and gave advice on how best to manage expectations and stay positive in what can be a grueling writing process. Their best pieces of advice included getting to know your PhD cohort, writing soon and often, and taking advantage of the various extra skills courses the university offers. After the current students spoke, it was time to get back in the taxis and make the short trip home to St Andrews–this time with more knowledge of the School of History and even more excitement for the 2019/20 academic year to begin!

About standrewshistory
With over forty fulltime members of staff researching and teaching on European, American and Asian history from the dawn of the Middle Ages to the present day, the School of History at the University of St Andrews has one of the finest faculty and diverse teaching programmes of any School of History in the English speaking world. The School boasts expertise in Mediaeval and Modern History, from Scotland to Byzantium and the Americas to South Asia. Thematic interests include religious history, urban history, transnationalism, historiography and nationalism. The School of History prides itself on small group teaching, allowing for in-depth study and supervision tailored to secure the best from each student. Cutting edge research combined with teaching excellence offer a dynamic and intellectually stimulating environment for the study of History.

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